By: Ryan Zimmerman
Lansing, Ill. – The MCL Minutemen (5-14) struggled to keep pace with the Southland Vikings (12-7) down the stretch at Lansing Old Timer’s Sports Complex. A perfect storm of tired pitchers and tough-luck hits doomed them in the late innings, consigning them to a 16-4 loss in eight innings.
“We’ve just been dealing with bad luck all season long,” manager Jack Murphy said. “A lot of softly-hit balls found grass in the outfield, the guys that took the mound had to work around a bunch of bloop hits and seeing-eye singles. The guys did not play badly at all, there was just nothing they could do.”
Taking the hill against his former college coach in newly appointed Vikings manager Rocco Mossuto, Ryan Troxel (Indiana Tech/Valparaiso, Ind.) kept the Minutemen in the ballgame through his first six innings. He permitted four runs on six hits, striking out three and stranding four baserunners in the process. However, he did allow two home runs in that span.
“Ryan started off really strong again,” Murphy said. “He was excellent in his first six innings. They [Southland] hit those two home runs, but that was really the extent to which Southland could get anything going. He just kept battling and making good pitches.”
The two teams remained close through the first six innings thanks to the bat of Ryan Missal (Western Michigan/Lowell, Ind.). After Matthew Lelito (Kankakee CC/Merrillville, Ind.) and Tyler Struck (Murray State College/Orland Park, Ill.) both walked to lead off the third inning, Missal crushed a first-pitch fastball and drove it over the right-center field fence. The long ball marked his first and the team’s fifth this season.
“It’s really good to see him [Missal] break out like that,” Murphy said. “He’s been working in the [batting] cages really hard and his efforts paid off. Watching him round the bases with a big smile on his face was fun to witness.”
Behind 4-3 after six frames, the Viking offense kicked into overdrive in the seventh and never looked back. Going into his seventh inning of work, Troxel ran out of steam, and the opposing lineup took advantage, plating six runs before he was removed. Southland ended up scoring nine runs, pushing their lead to ten runs.
As a mercy-rule ending hung in the balance, the Minutemen refused to go down without a fight. Struck led off the next half-inning by receiving his second free pass before Cole Anderson (Maryville/Homewood, Ill.) knocked his first MCL hit into left-center field. A Brennan Brogni (Illinois-Springfield/Flagstaff, Ariz.) run-scoring groundout enabled the hosts to fight for another inning.
Unfortunately, one more inning was all the Minutemen received. Two more Vikings crossed home plate in the top of the eighth, giving the visitors a 12-run victory.
“I told the guys in our postgame huddle that they played well today,” Murphy said. “We had a lot of good, competitive at-bats; we’re starting to get back our usual approaches. The bats are heating up again, we just need to build on this in order to get back to our winning ways.”
The Minutemen cross state lines as they take on the Joliet Generals at 1 p.m. at Central Park in Dyer, Ind. However, that game will not be broadcast. The Minutemen will be back on air on Monday when they visit the Crestwood Panthers at 5 p.m. at Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind. Jon Zaghloul and Ryan Zimmerman will have the call.
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